**A/N: Annnnd things are beginning to rev up a bit here in STC-land. Ideas, theories, and possible motivations are starting to come together so that the group can get their plans on, and then there’s a surprise!**
Eric was not the only one who noticed when Godric stopped smirking. Niall, being a wily old goat, had concentrated his strong and sometimes used observational skills upon the ancient vampire to gauge his reaction to Claudia’s implied role in greeting the upcoming delegation.
That the “upcoming delegation” was comprised of three old family friends completely unsuitable as mates for the granddaughter remained irrelevant.
While he would most assuredly have preferred his second-favorite descendant to secure reproduction rights with a member of any acceptable Fairy party – who wouldn’t? She could have easily taken her pick from numerous impeccable lineages – he was mostly above those sorts of base machinations.
But he could tell as easily as anyone which way the wind was currently blowing between those two.
The fact that she wasn’t shrieking and popping away from the male by her side was quite telling.
He knew his little Claudia. He hoped his tacit approval of Sookie’s Eric and his willingness to spend time in both vampires’ presence would ease her mind about the undead species, but he also knew how she tended to grasp onto her fears a little too firmly at times.
While that could be a handy trait, sometimes it prevented natural growth and evolution.
But Godric… Niall needed assurance about the ancient boy’s intentions. Of course he knew the vampire’s nature was generally steady and dependable, well, as much as a vampire’s could be, he guessed, but this was his little Claudia and he would not have some part-time fairy fucking about with her sweet little heart.
He worried somewhat less about Sookie – if the need arose, she could be trusted to lob fireballs at offending vampire parts no matter who those parts were attached to. Claudia…no so much. It wasn’t that she couldn’t…more that she wouldn’t. He wondered vaguely if, once Sookie recovered, a blood transfusion from the fiery to the mostly fireless should be considered…
Ah, well… If he couldn’t welcome new fairies from her loins – his species always needed new Fae babies – the least he could do was ensure that she was…happy.
But why did the best of his line always seem drawn to the undead? Blasted vampires. Never having been attracted to the undead a day in his life, he simply couldn’t understand what she might see in him, or what Sookie saw in the Viking for that matter. Granted both were renowned in the realms for their fighting prowess, but so were Fae warriors, damn it. In his day couples rarely married except for securing political powers; couples, if they existed, were together mainly for the purpose of creating and perhaps rearing young. Affairs were the way to go…clean, easy, numerous affairs…
Alas, as far as he knew, vampires truly could not genetically reproduce – the magics used in their supernatural reanimation didn’t seem compatible with the magics generated by a fairy’s spark, so he knew young were not likely to emerge from their union.
Honestly, the whole thing was a mess. Really…what did she see in the ancient boy? However, if she wanted that ancient boy, then she would have that ancient boy…but she would have all of him.
There would be none of this “playing about” no matter how strong and powerful the one formerly known as Death was. If he was going to be with his most timid granddaughter, then by Jove he was going to do it right.
It must be that love thing, he mused, but honestly, that was for the young and foolish, but, ah, there you go.
Gentle nudges were sometimes in order.
By the time Niall’s mental ramblings were finally under control, the group was heavily engaged in conversation about their current difficulties and the emptied containers of blood and their carriers had all disappeared from the table.
“…can’t stay here forever,” Eric state rather more correctly than he might realize.
Although Niall had not said a word, nor would he, their current enclosures were taxing the old Prince’s reserves more than he would like to admit. The power he was continuously diverting toward their existence was coming from his own realm’s magical security barriers, and while he would never begrudge the temporary redistribution, the sooner the balances could be restored, the better.
“I think my suite in the hotel is permanently reserved in my name, but if he found me there once, he would do it again. Wait…your blood would have killed his blood, right? So he wouldn’t be able to sense me anymore…right,” Sookie half asked, half demanded.
Eric could more than understand her concern.
“Yes, whatever weak bond he may have had with you upon your return was most definitely negated when you took my blood in the limo.” The memory of the event along with the fundamental knowledge that his blood had broken every last tie fucking Compton may have had to Sookie threatened to cause more than his brow to rise.
Sookie, still upon his lap, snickered at that brow before gazing into his eyes. “Well, then, I’m doubly glad now that I took a sip of you before everything happened.”
Abruptly the memory of her lying so still on the ground returned and his eyes darkened. When his arm about her waist tightened, Sookie didn’t say a word. Instead she just rested her head on his chest and sent what she hoped were bursts of health and love through their connection.
Wishing to divert his attention, she tilted her head to whisper in his ear, “Are you going to give me another dose of you tonight sometime?”
The look that said he was reliving a harrowing memory was instantly replaced with heat and anticipation.
Godric, although no longer magically attuned to his child, had easily guessed the cause of Eric’s visible distress and heartily cursed the Compton fool.
Something, however… Some piece, perhaps many pieces, were missing from what was surely a puzzle, and he didn’t have enough information yet to solve it. Other hands were at work…
“But we still can’t stay here forever, I mean, we’re basically right in that asshole’s back yard.” Sookie’s tone as she spoke to the rest of those gathered reflected her uneasiness with the current situation.
For two cents Niall would have suggested hauling Sookie back to the Fae realm but the comfort she so obviously gained from physical contact with the Northman stayed his tongue. That Eric was another one he wouldn’t mind allowing into his realm, but unlike the Maker, the child would not fare so well…or likely at all. And while magically transporting Sookie to any other location on the planet would be but the work of a moment, transporting the two vampires, for surely the Viking’s progeny would go with them, would require a bit more planning given that their best chance of moving without detection would be during the daylight hours.
“I will contact the demon lawyer,” Eric concluded. “Our properties need to be looked after during our absence anyway, but Cataliades may know of safe locations…and he may have heard things we would not.”
Niall inclined his head. “Desmond has his fingers in many pies, even I can vouch for that.”
Godric nodded thoughtfully. “His input could be most helpful. And I agree – remaining here during Sookie’s recovery would not be wise. Now,” he rose knowing he thought best while pacing, “recount to me exactly how the events of the other night unfolded, and leave nothing out.”
At everyone’s surprise over his strongly serious tone, he stated, “I believe we will find that not all is as it seems, but too much is not yet known to formulate a reliable theory, much less a plan.”
At his nod, Eric began. He described events chronologically from what he knew about Compton and his badly run regime to the first he had heard about the “upcoming” so-called gala. He rushed through Sookie’s return until he came to the part when she had “light-bombed Compton’s person”, and after ceding the floor to Sookie to describe that event in slightly smug detail even to the point of announcing that Compton was still “oozing”, he continued on to when he had received formal notice of his required attendance.
“When word had first spread about Compton’s little party, I was under the impression that instead of attending, I was to maintain the Area so the king could play. That was more than fine by me, but later he changed his mind because suddenly my attendance was mandatory.”
Godric appeared thoughtful for a moment then he and Eric both shrugged their shoulders before the younger vampire continued his outline. From there he described contracting the car and driver, planning with Sookie about finally-ending Compton, a blunt admission that caused several snickers from the listeners, and ended that portion of his report by stating how he had utterly failed to talk her out of attending on his arm for pure shock value.
“It wasn’t just for pure shock value and you know it,” Sookie piped up. By this point she had stretched out on the couch but her head remained in Eric’s lap. He found it hilarious that she tried to glare at him from that angle.
“You know as well as I do that I wanted to, well, if not kill him myself at least help kill him, and I needed to see him turned to goo with my own two eyes.”
“And you will, my Sookie, you will. We simply have to figure out how.”
Several small details had caught the ancient vampire’s attention and he was certain they would fit somehow in with the rest of the puzzle slowly coming together. He held his silence and motioned for Eric to continue.
Seven minutes later, Eric finished with his tale. He had stated what time he and Sookie had left his house, had gone into great deal about the information gained via the surveillance equipment in the limo combined with what information he had previously gleaned from the royal residence, and related how the ambush had taken place so very soon after Sookie had broken the witch’s glamour and spells.
The life-long post situation habit he had shared with Godric still very familiar, he went on to describe in minute detail every aspect of the ambush from the moment he and Sookie realized they were under attack to how the attack proceeded up until the moment he disappeared from the roadside with Sookie in his arms.
After contemplating the information for a long moment, Godric nodded to Sookie. With Eric’s help she sat up, and no one was surprised when both a glass of light water and a glass of sweet iced tea appeared on the table before the couple.
However, when preferred beverages and plates loaded with food appeared on the table, only Eric was shocked when Godric returned to his seat and reached for the glass of wine…which stood beside his plate…which was filled with a hearty helping of roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, a mound of little green peas topped with a melting pat of butter…and a roll.
Godric, fully aware of his child’s shock, merely winked at the boy before calmly proceeding to eat. Via the written word he had made Eric fully aware of his ability to eat…now the boy could deal with it.
Ah, peas…how well his little Claudia knew him…
Between elegant bites of her own food as she studiously ignored Eric’s shock, Sookie began her long narrative of events after leaving in the limo. Like Eric, she smoothly skipped over the part where she had taken his blood and concentrated at length on the information she’d gained at the expense of her powers.
Corresponding glares and two notable growls reaffirmed her conviction to never do that again.
Although she didn’t go into unnecessarily gory detail, when she finally revealed the entirety of Bill’s erstwhile plans for both her person and her blood, she was glad Godric had finished his food-based meal for both vampires erupted in room-shaking snarls.
She should have known…
Sookie glanced over at Claudy intending to reassure her cousin – it would clearly take time and earplugs for the anger and need for vengeance to run their course through the vampires now huddled and whispering near the door to the “bubble” – but, strangely enough, her cousin seemed fine as she sipped her cider.
Her hair was still tinged with the red of powerful concern, but instead of her head making fire trucks jealous, a lovely golden shade provided the base color. Sookie went back to picking at her plate – her cousin’s version of a serving size was as generous as always thereby ensuring there was no way she’d be able to empty the dang thing. She was actually rather surprised that Claudy had “served” them something so deliciously homey…and edible.
Niall simply finished his supper and magically refilled his wine as he waited for the undead to gather themselves and return to the group.
No one could hear the hurriedly whispered conversation between the two furious vampires, and while Niall gave them their privacy by pretending to politely ignore them, Sookie and Claudia both attempted to calm their individual vampires with burst of what soothing calm and peace they could muster.
Eventually Eric and Godric returned, only the ancient vampire remained standing while Sookie’s Viking pulled her back onto his lap rather quickly.
Godric paced ever faster as he reviewed known facts and theories.
Surely if the soon-dead kingling had only wished for Eric’s final death and Sookie’s capture, he would not have gone so far overboard. From the set-up at the ‘royal residence’ to having teams stationed at his targets’ houses to the too-handy ambush on the road, the apparent preparations for that night’s agenda amounted to swatting at a fly with a nuclear weapon.
No matter the species, killing most anyone was almost laughably easy even for weaklings such as Compton; doing so without arousing suspicion required a bit more planning, but even so, it was no difficult task. The same applied to a kidnapping. All that was needed was the element of surprise combined with proven tactics and appropriate skills.
Granted his progeny would never have been that easily ended even on his worst night, and Sookie’s powers had grown rapidly… A coward such as that particular kingling would have stood no chance and would, in theory at least, realize this fact hence the need for the witch…
He paused abruptly then began speaking.
“Yes, this situation is more far-reaching than perhaps is immediately obvious…not nearly as simple as it appears from the surface. True, Compton is most assuredly after Sookie for a variety of reasons, and it is also true that he has several bones to pick with you, Eric, but my gut tells me there are more fingers in this particular pie than we currently see, and perhaps there is much more at stake than we know.”
He tilted his head to the side a bit as if in thought, then continued.
“The kingling’s Maker, Lorena…she is an idiot and is known for turning those of her ilk, and from your words and what I myself knew before my ending… Yes, we all know Compton doesn’t possess the mentality necessary for this amount of forethought and strategic planning, and he certainly wouldn’t have the resources regardless of his current station. He isn’t just a coward – he is a lazy, rash coward prone to stupidity and spineless pandering.”
His bright blue gaze honed in on Sookie.
“And you say he is yet to fully recover from your retribution that night in the hotel, yes?”
Sookie snickered but replied more seriously, “No, he hasn’t, and from what I saw in the witch’s mind, apparently wounds caused by a fairy blast not only don’t heal fast, they don’t heal well, either. She said that there’s really no way he can hide the damage but that he keeps trying. He has to wear,” she choked out, now unable to control her laughter, “adult diapers because of it!”
All in favor of a good chuckle, Claudia laughingly asked Sookie to list again everything she’d done to the vampire, and her cousin gleefully complied.
As she went over her handiwork – this time with even more elaboration – to the accompaniment of snickers and proud expressions, she idly wished for marshmallows, chocolate bars (the good kind), shortbread flats (which she heartily preferred over nasty graham crackers), and a campfire. Somehow it all seemed apropos…
“Good job, Sookie,” Godric pronounced with a proud gleam in his eye. It occurred to him that he would never tire of hearing that particular list. Everyone murmured their agreement then resettled themselves.
“It it strikes me as very strange,” he continued, his tone once again serious, “that he would have proceeded with his so-called ‘gala’ in spite of all these repulsive injuries. Vampires do not allow themselves to be seen with any potential vulnerabilities if they can possibly help it yet he willingly allowed himself to parade around in front of all those who would attend.”
“And considering the condition he was in, his stakes in the evening’s agenda must have been very high then,” Eric agreed.
“Who was to attend?” Claudia’s question caught them by surprise.
Niall beamed at his now golden-haired granddaughter. Not only was she sitting easily with, unbeknownst to her, two of the most powerful vampires on the planet, she was actively conversing with them, too! It was rather nice not being startled into inadvertently popping away by her shrieks…
Eric nodded his head in recognition of the logic behind her question before answering, “An official guest list was never released. My sources in Bon Temps and Shreveport, however, reported that a few local “bigwigs” – the kind who would be influenced by a handshake and a photo-op – involved in business, politics, and media were bragging about their invitations to anyone who would listen.”
“Are any of them suspected of being anything more than they seem?”
Eric thought for a moment about Godric’s question.
“No. To the best of my knowledge, they are all exactly as they appear. None have hidden ties that I know of, and none have hidden agendas beyond the usual political or financial. Being seen with a vampire king would do them little good beyond face value.”
“So they were cover for the true purpose behind the evening’s gathering. Unless more notable guests were invited, there would be no reason for an injured vampire to hold a publicized event attended by persons useful on a local level but who would otherwise be unworthy of the risks involved in exposing his weaknesses.”
Everyone fell silent as they digested Godric’s line of reasoning. Unfortunately, no one could find fault with it.
Eric patted his pocket automatically. “Damn, my phone’s still in the limo. I need to contact Desmond.”
A moment later, Pere popped just inside the door of the “bubble”. Godric hid a snicker when Eric instinctively started at the male’s appearance. It would simply take his progeny time to become accustomed to the ways of the Fae.
The guard nodded at the group then looked toward Niall who had apparently summoned him.
“Can the Northman’s phone be retrieved from the vehicle removed from the scene of the ambush?”
Pere snorted. “No. That…no longer exists.”
“Ah, I didn’t think so but wanted to be sure. Has his progeny been…fed?”
“Yes, and the alacrity with which she accepted her carrier tells me she has most likely already consumed her meal. I chose to remain beyond the barrier.”
Eric snorted this time. “A wise decision.”
The Fairy inclined his head wryly. “Shall I escort her over now that she has undoubtedly fed, Your Majesty?”
Niall looked toward Sookie who nodded her head, then toward Claudia whose hair was back to that horrendously violent red and whose eyes were now large with fear.
She didn’t much more than blink in acknowledgement.
“Eric’s vampire child, Pam, helped save your cousin’s life. If she chooses to visit with us and sit in with this meeting, Sookie and I will be on hand to assure your safety, and I somehow doubt that the vampire now by your side would allow aught to befall you.”
Godric had more than returned to her side – he had placed his hand on her back again, but other than that would offer no further guidance or assistance. He knew his little Fae needed to meet her fears head on, and while he would support her and would most certainly prevent any sort of attack, her decisions were her own to make.
Not sending her confidence and courage or anything at all through their bond hurt – he ached with the need to soothe and bolster her during this trial – but this was something she had to do.
The knowledge that this situation would also prove to them both whether she could, or more honestly would, trust him to protect her made his nerve endings want to burn. This would be a telling time…
“Although it will not be necessary,” Eric added, “I am willing to use a Maker’s command to forbid her from coming within three feet of your person if that will make you feel safer.”
Godric was thrilled to send his beloved Eric a flood of grateful approval. That…he could do!
Claudia looked at the Viking for a long moment before speaking in a voice barely above a whisper.
“I’ve heard about that, the Maker’s command,” she clarified, “that if you tell her in that certain way to do or not to do something, she as the child would have to obey, but would it hurt her?”
Surprised at the question, Eric shook his head. “She will feel a compulsion to follow the command but would feel no pain whatsoever unless she attempted to disobey it.”
She pondered this new information for a moment. Being in the same room with Godric was not an issue at all now, and she had been surprised by how well she had been doing in his child’s presence, too, but then Eric had Sookie on his lap. Her cousin’s presence seemed to somewhat negate the fear that the large blond vampire would otherwise have certainly inspired – he was just so…big!
But there was no one handy to place on this Pam’s lap…
“If it becomes too much, you may always take yourself home,” Niall offered gently. “You excel in the art of teleportation, so never doubt your abilities, child.” The old Prince wisely didn’t mention that she also excelled in the dual time-honored arts of Screeching and Squeaking.
“Oh Claudy, woman up,” Sookie finally ordered, although not unkindly. “Pam can be scary, I’ll grant you that, but she would never do anything to hurt either Eric or Godric – she adores them both far too much to risk anything. And besides, she just ate, and knowing Pere as we do, she’s full enough for any two vampires. You’ll be fine.”
Unseen by Sookie, Eric cocked a brow at her mention of the blond guard now studiously examining his nails. He victoriously silenced a growl but…
“And just how well do you know this Pere?”
To Claudia’s surprise considering the perhaps unintentionally serious tone of Eric’s voice, Sookie laughed as she leaned back and twisted around enough to plant a kiss on his cheek.
“Very well, and whose lap am I sitting on?”
Claudia let a giggle escape when that big blond Viking vampire growled lightly and squinted his eyes menacingly down at her cousin in obvious play.
Her cousin growled and squinted right back at him.
The guard still by the door now regarded them all with a slightly raised brow.
“Pere? If you would, please escort his child over.” Claudia’s voice wasn’t strong by any means, but she’d made herself say the words.
Godric was mightily pleased to finally be able to flood – absolutely flood – his brave little warrior with pride and comfort.
She had passed this small trial!
Niall nodded as though there had never been any doubt. Then as Pere left on his errand, the old Prince produced a cell phone in his hand which he casually tossed to Eric…who instantly recognized it.
“Just because a thing no longer exists doesn’t mean its existence is void,” he stated with typical Fae vagueness.
Eric immediately began accessing his accumulated messages.
When five minutes had passed and no one had yet to appear, uneasy looks began being exchanged. As they were encased by the magical barrier, the vampires couldn’t sense anything beyond the inner confines, but thankfully the looks on Niall and Claudia’s faces revealed more confused curiosity than fear. Sookie, comfortably settled on Eric’s lap, chose to let the others worry about it as she closed her eyes and let her head rest on his chest.
Although still disgustingly fatigued, her body no longer ached. That place inside that felt oddly chilled by her damaged spark wasn’t exactly healed, but at least the chilling tremors had mostly ceased. She couldn’t wait to be alone with Eric, but it wasn’t just his blood she wanted.
Then someone knocked on the door.
Niall immediately popped from his seat over to the door while Godric stood from his seat and blurred to stand by the Prince’s side.
Once Niall magically opened the door, Pere and Pam stood to each side of a middle-aged redheaded woman with pale blue eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose.
“Look what we found wandering around the yard,” Pam announced with all inappropriate snark as they entered the large room, she and Pere each keeping a hand on the woman’s upper arms.
Claudia quietly barked a laugh. That Pam vampire had a funny sense of humor…
Sookie, alert once again because of the commotion, stared hard at the woman.
“You’re the witch! You’re the one who let me into your brain, aren’t you…”
The woman nodded.
“That I am. You must be Sookeh?”
The fairy-hybrid in question huffed. Although the woman had a deeply Southern accent, that was no reason to maul her name.
“That stupid fucker never could get my name right. It’s Sookie. How did you find us? And what’s your name?”
“Sorry ’bout that but that’s what The Royal Leaking Dick kept callin’ you. I’m Sari McKillian, and I used my magic, of course, and a butt-load of spells. With the way our connection ended I was worried about you and wondered if you were ok so I wanted to check up on ya. I don’t trust that Compton piece of shit no further than I can throw him,” she explained.
“We don’t either.”
Sookie went quiet for a minute.
“Pam, Pere? Y’all can let go of her; she’s clear.”
Both complied although they remained by the woman’s side.
“Well, see, I may be an’ I might not be, that’s another reason I wanted to see you in person.”
“What do you mean?” Eric fixed an icy glare upon the woman. He still had his Sookie on his lap but was tensed to instantly move her to the side and drain the intruder if need be. The expression on Godric’s face as he stared hard at the woman showed extreme agreement.
“That bastard glamoured me so many times that I can’t be sure your lady-friend cleared all of his mind-tricks away and…,” she paused to take a deep if tremulous breath, “and I want revenge. I’m assuming you guys must want that, too, and from what I remember, according to him and his precautions against y’all, you guys just might be able to get it. What he had me do…the ways he had me pervert my magic… He not only deserves to die, he needs to die hard. He can’t be allowed to get away with that, and he can’t be allowed to try it again, either.”
“You said it, sister,” said a voice remarkably like Claudia’s.
“I can remove any remaining glamour.” Godric spoke softly as though now not wishing to alarm the woman. “It will only take a moment, but will require your full cooperation.”
The woman regarded the ancient vampire with surprise, obviously seeing the youth of the teen for a long moment before noting the timeless knowledge in his serious blue-gray eyes.
“My friend, if you can rid my head of him, I’m all for it.” With a firm nod she turned her glance to the room for the first time…then shrieked when three more chairs appeared by literal magic and formed an arc between Eric’s end of one couch and where Godric had been sitting at the end of the other.
“That’s real magic, Red. Now sit.” Pam indicated the middle chair.
**A/N: That Pam… So, Godric is easily putting his over two thousand years’ of experience to use in more ways than one, Claudy is showing herself that she’s stronger and braver than she’d like to think, Niall is at heart basically a good guy who’s only a LITTLE manipulative, Sookie’s feeling a little better but still needs some recovery time…and she wants her Eric, and Eric has his phone and his Sookie on his lap…but wants some freakin’ alone time with her. Pere, meanwhile, knows what his nails look like. So – what did you think?**